Since Rush Limbaugh took over talk radio, it has been the province of the right and has seen audiences grow and become, in some ways, more and more immune to opposing views. This is because these views are served up as simplistic, silly arguments by the hosts and then immediately smacked down. Liberals are allowed on only to be ridiculed and cut off. Listening to Hannity go off on a liberal caller, or even a moderate who disagrees, is a classic lesson in bullying. You can tell that Hannity is a paper tiger and the quality of his talk changes perceptively when he needs to make a big point. He is no longer winging it, instead reading from a list of talking points, almost as if from a script. So he is like the little not-so-smart punk with the big friends who put him up to the fight and make sure that he never gets hurt.
On the other side, Air America can't compete because instead of bullies, they're peddling brats. Were Hannity is the kid waiting outside for your lunch money, the Air America gang are the sneering rich kids who get off on trashing Daddy's sport scar. With losers like Al Franken and Randi Rhodes, liberal radio has no hope of surviving. The audience of condescending anger is very limited.
Into this atmosphere, Ed Schultz has staked his chances on going after the middle while providing entertaining back-and-forth without the obsequious fawning found in most partisan radio. Schultz is now available on Armed Forces Radio. [Ed. note: Joe emailed to inform me that due to a hitch, Schultz will not be starting today on AFR. I'll update when that changes].
Joe Gandelman has an interview with Schultz at The Moderate Voice. It is a wide ranging interview and provides insight into what makes Schultz unique in radio. He has a long career and can talk on a wide range of subjects. I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but he demonstrates an ability to think and persuade, rather than relying on intimidation and insult.
Schultz is a guy who understands how conservative radio has impacted politics and how radio can be used by the other side. It would be a good idea for some intelligent talk coming from a different point of view than the lock step we find from righty talk shows.
Read Joe's interview for a look at liberal radio's possibly last, best hope.
UPDATE: Joe has a new post up saying that AFR has pulled Schultz' show from its debut. Schultz doesn't seem to know exactly why he has been yanked, although some are attributing it to Schultz' comments about the staged conversation last week between Bush and U.S. troops, and for criticism of Alison Barber, who ran the talk. You can read all about it at this new link.